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NCAA.com | June 18, 2020

AP poll: Year-by-year history of the college football rankings

The 1940 Fifth-Down Game: Dartmouth vs. Cornell

The Associated Press has released its college football rankings every year since the 1936 season. Below is a year-by-year history of the college football AP poll, compiled from the NCAA record book.

Clickable timeline:

1936-39
1940-49
1950-59
1960-69
1970-79
1980-89
1990-99
2000-09
2010-19

1936 — The Associated Press Poll began with sports editors of AP newspapers voting for the top 20 teams nationally. Minnesota and Northwestern each had 7-1 records and, even though Northwestern whipped the Golden Gophers in the regular season, Minnesota was named No. 1 in the final poll.

1937 — California began with a 5-0 record and was ranked No. 1 in the first three polls, but Jock Sutherland’s Pittsburgh Panthers took over the lead in November and finished 9-0-1 and No. 1.

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1938 — Previous year’s AP leader Pittsburgh was ranked No. 1 to begin the season, but Dutch Meyer’s TCU Horned Frogs, behind legendary QB Davey O’Brien, posted an undefeated 10-0 regular season for the poll championship.

1939 — Pittsburgh and Tennessee, two powerhouses, exchanged the No. 1 spot in the poll until Homer Norton’s Texas A&M Aggies, behind big fullback John Kimbrough, took over the top spot late and finished 10-0 in the regular season for the mythical AP title.

1940 — Eastern power Cornell led for the first four weeks until eventual champion Minnesota, behind coach Bernie Bierman and All-Americans George Franck and Urban Odson, finished No. 1. It was the second of three national poll champions for Bierman.

1941 — Minnesota made it two in a row behind Heisman Trophy winner Bruce Smith as the Gophers posted a perfect 8-0 record.

1942 — Ohio State started the season as the No. 1 team until a midseason loss dropped the Buckeyes back into the pack. Georgia and Boston College shared the No. 1 spot until the last week, when Ohio State, behind legendary coach Paul Brown, finished as the top team.

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1943 — Notre Dame led wire-to-wire, the first time a team had led every week since the poll originated in 1936. Coach Frank Leahy, in only his third year, had plenty of tools to work with, including backs Angelo Bertelli (Heisman Trophy winner and consensus All-American) and Creighton Miller (fourth in the Heisman voting and consensus All-American). The line was loaded also with end John Yonaker, tackle Jim White and guard Pat Filley, all consensus All-Americans.

Army West Point Athletics Blanchard, Balik and Davis of Army West Point football Felix 'Doc' Blanchard, Earl 'Red' Blaik and Glenn Davis (from left to right) help lead Army to three straight national championships from 1944-46.

1944 — Notre Dame started off the year as the No. 1 team, but Red Blaik’s Army West Point team, behind consensus All-Americans Doc Blanchard (Mr. Inside) and Glenn Davis (Mr. Outside), rolled to an undefeated season and the first of two consecutive No. 1 finishes.

1945 — During the last year of World War II, no team more personified America’s determination than Army West Point, which ran the table again behind Blanchard and Davis, and consensus All-America linemen John Green and Tex Coulter. The Cadets posted a perfect 9-0 record, but service academies did not participate in bowl games then.

1946 — This was a pivotal year for the AP poll in that Army West Point was expected to sweep to the No. 1 spot easily, again behind Blanchard and Davis. During the season, Army West Point finished 9-0-1, highlighted by a 0-0 tie at Yankee Stadium against Johnny Lujack-led Notre Dame (8-0-1) in the “Game of the Decade.” However, Army West Point barely beat an outclassed Navy team in its final game, and the voters selected Notre Dame No. 1.

1947 — Notre Dame and Michigan alternated Nos. 1 and 2 slots throughout the year with Notre Dame getting the final regular-season nod, even though both teams were 9-0. In the ensuing bowl game, Michigan rolled over Southern California, 49-0. The public demanded that the voters release another post-bowl poll and the Wolverines won easily. AP decided, however, that the postseason poll did not supersede the final regular-season poll of Dec. 6, 1947.

1948 — Defending champion Notre Dame alternated with North Carolina and Michigan as No. 1 in the first few polls, but the Wolverines took over in November and raced to a 9-0 record and a poll championship in coach Bennie Oosterbaan’s first year as a head coach.

1949 — Michigan was No. 1 the first week before Notre Dame took over and cruised to a perfect 9-0 mark and the national poll title. It was the last of four No. 1 finishes in seven years for coach Frank Leahy. The stars were end Leon Hart (Heisman Trophy winner and consensus All-American) and consensus All-America backs Emil Sitko and Bob Williams. 

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1950 — This was another pivotal year as AP’s rival United Press began its own top-20 poll, voted on by a panel of coaches. The two polls would go head-to-head for the next 45 years. On the field, Notre Dame, Army West Point (behind Dan Foldberg), SMU (behind Kyle Rote) and Ohio State (led by Heisman winner Vic Janowicz) all led at least one week. But Oklahoma, behind coach Bud Wilkinson and consensus All-Americans Leon Heath and Jim Weatherall, posted a 9-0 record for the No. 1 spot and then promptly lost in the Sugar Bowl to Kentucky, led by Babe Parilli.

1951 — Tennessee raced to a No. 1 ranking on the heels of Bob Neyland’s coaching and the fleet feet of consensus All-American Hank Lauricella. Michigan State and California both mounted weekly challenges, but the Volunteers held on for Neyland’s first title in 20 years of coaching.

1952 — Michigan State took over in the third week and raced to a perfect 9-0 record behind coach Clarence “Biggie” Munn. The Spartans did not play in a bowl game.

Michigan State Athletics Clarence "Biggie" Munn of Michigan State football Clarence "Biggie" Munn coached Michigan State from 1947–1953, including a national championship in 1952.

1953 — Notre Dame looked like a sure winner as the Irish led for the first eight weeks of the season behind Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner. But Maryland, behind the coaching of Jim Tatum and the play of consensus All-America tackle Stan Jones, made a late bid with a 10-0 mark. The Terrapins lost in the Orange Bowl to Oklahoma, 7-0.

1954 — The two polls split for the first time as Ohio State prevailed in the AP and UCLA in the UP. The two teams did not meet in the Rose Bowl to decide the “on-the-field” champion. UCLA had to stay behind because of the Pacific 8’s “Rose Bowl no-repeater” rule since they had played in Pasadena the year before against Michigan. Ohio State gave coach Woody Hayes his first AP championship with a 10-0 record and the Buckeyes defeated Southern California, 20-7, in the Rose Bowl.

1955 — Oklahoma continued with major college football’s all-time 47-game winning streak by cruising to an AP No. 1 spot with a 10-0 mark and handing Bud Wilkinson the second of three national poll titles.

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1956 — This year was a continuation of Oklahoma’s powerhouse team, which posted a perfect 11-0 record in the all-time 47-game winning streak that lasted almost four years (1953-57). Led by center Jerry Tubbs and back Tommy McDonald, the Sooners gave Bud Wilkinson his final AP national title.

1957 — Again there was a split vote in the two polls as AP selected as No. 1 unbeaten Auburn (10-0), under Shug Jordan, even though the Tigers were on probation. UP, the coaches’ poll, threw out Auburn from poll consideration and went with Woody Hayes’ Ohio State Buckeyes (9-1). Auburn did not go to a bowl, and Ohio State beat Oregon, 10-7, in the Rose Bowl.

Auburn Athletics Jackie Burkett of Auburn football Auburn's Jackie Burkett, an All-SEC sophomore linebacker and center from the 1957 national championship team.

1958 — Led by consensus All-America back Billy Cannon on offense and a swarming defense, coach Paul Dietzel’s surprising LSU Tigers took over the No. 1 spot in midseason. LSU finished 11-0 and beat Clemson in the Sugar Bowl.

1959 — Even though LSU had Heisman winner Billy Cannon returning, Syracuse took over the No. 1 slot in early November and posted an 11-0 mark to claim its first poll title. Coach Ben Schwartzwalder was rewarded with his only championship behind the All-America play of guard Roger Davis, and Syracuse defeated Texas, 23-14, in the Cotton Bowl.

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1960 — Minnesota, under Murray Warmath, led in both polls before the bowl games but was upset by Washington, 17-7, in the Rose Bowl. That prompted the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) to conduct a post-bowl poll that named Johnny Vaught’s Ole Miss Rebels as champion. Minnesota remained the official winner in both AP and UPI polls.

1961 — Alabama avoided a minefield of upsets and raced to a 10-0 record to claim the AP title, even though Iowa, Ole Miss, Michigan State and Texas all were No. 1 at one time during the year. It was Bear Bryant’s first of six AP championships.

Alabama Athletics 1961 Alabama football Team picture of the 1961 Alabama football roster.

1962 — Coach John McKay got his first national title as Southern California bided its time waiting for four other teams to share No. 1 during the year. The Trojans slipped into the top spot late with a 10-0 regular-season mark and then downed Wisconsin, 42-37, in the Rose Bowl.

1963 — Texas, under Darrell Royal, was a unanimous choice of all of the polls as the Longhorns took over the No. 1 slot in October, finished 10-0 and then beat a Navy team, led by Heisman winner Roger Staubach, in the Cotton Bowl. The Longhorns’ top player was tackle Scott Appleton.

1964 — The 1964 season saw the AP and UPI polls both agree on Alabama as No. 1, while the other two consensus polls picked Arkansas (FWAA) and Notre Dame (National Football Foundation). It was Bear Bryant’s second of six AP titles.

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1965 — AP had its first post-bowl poll while UPI remained with a pre-bowl selection. AP selected Alabama for the second straight year. UPI went with Michigan State, which then lost in the Rose Bowl to UCLA, 14-12. Alabama had a 9-1-1 record and then whipped Nebraska, 39-28, in the Orange Bowl.

1966 — Both Notre Dame and Michigan State were unbeaten as they headed National Poll Rankings 143 into the Nov. 19 matchup. The Irish came back from a 10-0 deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter. Ara Parseghian’s Irish actually got the ball back with 1:30 remaining and decided to run the clock out rather than try to win. His strategy paid off the next week as Notre Dame crushed Southern California, 51-0, and the Irish were picked No. 1 in both final polls.

1967 — Southern California rebounded from an early loss to post a 9-1 record and move into the No. 1 slot in late November. John McKay’s Trojans beat Indiana, 14-3, in the Rose Bowl to cap off the season. USC stars were O.J. Simpson, Ron Yary, Tim Rossovich and Adrian Young, all consensus All-America selections.

1968 — Ohio State overtook Purdue and defending champion Southern California to become No. 1 in late November. The Buckeyes finished 10-0 and drilled Southern California, 27-16, in the Rose Bowl.

1969 — Defending champ Ohio State led the pack for most of the year before Darrell Royal’s Texas Longhorns made a strong bid for No. 1 late. The Longhorns finished 11-0, including the first “Game of the Century” vs. Arkansas, in which Texas scored a 15-14 victory after trailing 14-0. The team from the Lone Star State then beat Notre Dame, 21-17, in the Cotton Bowl. Texas had only one consensus All-America player, lineman Bob McKay, but had many productive players, such as James Street, Ted Koy and Steve Worster.

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1970 — It looked like this year might be a repeat of Texas’ ascension in 1969. The Longhorns dominated the AP poll for the entire second half of the season, but a 24-11 loss to Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl gave Nebraska a chance to take the final No. 1 spot. Bob Devaney’s Cornhuskers had only a tie to mar their final record (11-0-1) and beat LSU, 17-12, in the Orange Bowl.

1971 — Nebraska’s 1971 team, which many say was the best squad of its era, held the No. 1 spot wire-to-wire for Bob Devaney, the first team to do it since Army West Point in 1945. The Cornhuskers were led by future Heisman winner Johnny Rodgers and defensive stalwarts Willie Harper and Larry Jacobson, all consensus All-America selections. The year’s showdown for Nebraska was a matchup with Oklahoma in Norman in what many still consider the best “Game of the Century.” Nebraska won the hyped contest, 35-31, to finish 13-0, including a 38-6 victory over Alabama in the Orange Bowl.

Nebraska Athletics 1971 Nebraska football Game of the Century A junior cornerback for Bob Devaney's top-ranked Nebraska team in the 1971 Game of the Century against second-ranked Oklahoma, John Blahak (27) made the signature block that allowed Johnny Rodgers (20) to “tear” the Sooners “loose from their shoes” on a fabled 72-yard touchdown run in Norman, Okla.

1972 — It was all Southern California in 1972 as John McKay’s Trojans became the second school in a row to take the No. 1 spot in the poll from first week to last. The 12-0 record included a 42-17 pounding of Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Southern California was chosen the winner in all four consensus polls.

1973 — First defending champion Southern California, and then Ohio State, combined to keep a lock on the No. 1 position throughout most of the season. But Alabama took over the last week of November and met No. 3 Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl for the AP title. Notre Dame won a close 24-23 victory and captured the No. 1 final prize. Coach Ara Parseghian got his second of two championships behind such players as Dave Casper and Mike Townsend.

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1974 — In the year in which UPI finally moved its final poll after the bowl games, Ohio State and Oklahoma led in the AP poll most of the year. Oklahoma, behind a crushing rushing attack headed by Joe Washington, was on probation and not ranked by UPI, but finished 11-0 to take the top AP poll spot. Oklahoma consensus All-America picks were Washington, guard John Roush and linebacker Rod Shoate. Coach Barry Switzer started his tenure with two AP titles in his first three seasons and a 32-1-1 record. UPI selected Southern California, which finished 10-1-1. 

1975 — Oklahoma led the AP poll through September and seemed invincible. However, a roadblock cropped up in a surprise 23-3 loss to Kansas that snapped the Sooners’ 28-game winning streak. That sent Ohio State into the No. 1 AP slot until the crucial bowl games behind Archie Griffin, who was on track for his second straight Heisman. While Oklahoma was beating Michigan, 14-6, in the Orange, Ohio State fell, 23-10, to UCLA in the Rose, and the Sooners had their second straight AP championship. The Oklahoma squad had big-time talent in Joe Washington, Billy Brooks, Dewey Selmon, Lee Roy Selmon and Tinker Owens, who all earned All-America mention. Arizona State finished 12-0 and was the only undefeated, untied team. The Sun Devils, however, played in the Western Athletic Conference, not known as a strong league at the time.

Pitt Athletics John Majors of Pitt during the 1975 Sun Bowl Head coach of Pitt from 1973–76 and 1993–96, John Majors is seen carried off the field by Pitt players after the 1975 Sun Bowl victory over Kansas.

1976 — Michigan raced to an 8-0 record and led the poll for the first eight weeks. Pittsburgh, under Johnny Majors, finished strong with a 12-0 mark, including a 27-3 victory over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. The Panthers were on top at the end of the season and featured Heisman winner Tony Dorsett and defensive lineman Al Romano, both consensus All-America picks.

1977 — Five teams alternated taking the No. 1 AP ranking during the year, and five teams finished the season with 11-1 records, including pre-bowl leader Texas. However, Notre Dame (11-1) upset the No. 1 Longhorns, 38-10, in the Cotton Bowl by keeping Heisman winner Earl Campbell in check. Dan Devine’s Irish, behind consensus All-America players Ross Browner, Ken MacAfee and Luther Bradley, were also voted No. 1 in the UPI poll.

1978 — Penn State was No. 1 going into the bowl games but was upset, 14-7, by Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The Crimson Tide (11-1) was voted No. 1 by AP, but Southern California got the nod in the UPI poll because it beat Alabama, 24-14, during the regular season. USC (12-1) was led by coach John Robinson and future Heisman winner Charles White. The Trojans whipped Michigan, 17-10, in the Rose Bowl.

1979 — Alabama (12-0) made it two AP titles in a row and six overall for coach Bear Bryant as the Crimson Tide drilled Arkansas, 24-9, in the Sugar Bowl to forge ahead of pre-bowl No. 1 Ohio State. The Buckeyes (11-1) dropped out of contention when they lost in the Gator Bowl to Clemson, 17-15.

1980 — Alabama seemed to be in charge early, taking over the No. 1 AP slot for seven straight weeks until Notre Dame grabbed the spot on Nov. 4. But the Irish dropped out the next week as Georgia pushed into the No. 1 spot behind the running of freshman sensation Herschel Walker. Vince Dooley’s Bulldogs finished 12-0 and beat Notre Dame, 17-10, in the Sugar Bowl.

1981 — Michigan began as the AP leader before giving way after one week to Notre Dame, which was passed by Southern California, which was overtaken for a week by Texas, which then surrendered the top spot to Penn State, which then saw Pittsburgh rise to No. 1. All six of these teams fell by the wayside as Clemson, under Danny Ford, finished strong with a 12-0 record, including a 22-15 victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

1982 — Pittsburgh and Washington alternated sharing the No. 1 spot until Georgia took over on Nov. 9. The Bulldogs were still the leader going into the bowl games. However, No. 2 Penn State beat No. 1 Georgia, 27-23, in the Sugar Bowl for the AP poll championship. It was coach Joe Paterno’s first of two AP national championships.

1983 — It was a disappointing season for Nebraska, which held the No. 1 AP slot for 14 consecutive weeks, but was edged by fifth-ranked Miami (FL), 31-30, in the Orange Bowl. Coach Howard Schnellenberger’s Hurricanes took the AP title after winning a battle with a Nebraska team that had Heisman winner Mike Rozier and consensus All-America picks Irving Fryar and Dean Steinkuhler.

1984 — In a year that saw four other teams alternate as No. 1, BYU (13-0) hung around until fortune pushed the Cougars into the final No. 1 slot. Coach LaVell Edwards’ charges played no AP team in the top 20 in the regular season, but dispatched Michigan, 24-17, in the Holiday Bowl. When No. 1 Nebraska and No. 2 South Carolina both lost on Nov. 17, the No. 3 Cougars vaulted into the top spot and never gave it up.

1985 — Oklahoma stayed the course after an early loss to beat No. 1 Penn State, 25-10, in the Orange Bowl and give Barry Switzer his second AP title. Brian Bosworth and Tony Casillas were the top players for the Sooners.

1986 — Penn State hadn't been No. 1 all year, but the Nittany Lions finished 12-0, capped by a 14-10 victory over pre-bowl No. 1 Miami (FL) in the Fiesta Bowl. The bowl was arranged to match No. 1 vs. No. 2 because the two top teams had no conference affiliation. It was Joe Paterno’s second AP title.

1987 — Oklahoma held the No. 1 spot for all but one week during the year, but Miami (FL) grabbed the national poll title by downing the Sooners, 20-14, in the Orange Bowl. Miami featured a bruising defense with Daniel Stubbs and Bennie Blades topping the consensus All-America team. Coach Jimmy Johnson’s 12-0 Hurricanes garnered the second of four AP titles in 10 years.

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1988 — Notre Dame made a late-season run for AP’s No. 1 spot and finished a perfect 12-0 after a 34-21 win over West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl to grab the title. Miami (FL) had control of the No. 1 spot early before UCLA took over for a couple of weeks, followed by the Irish’s push.

1989 — Defending AP champion Notre Dame held the No. 1 slot for 12 consecutive weeks. Colorado took over when the Irish lost a game. The Buffaloes were No. 1 for only two weeks before Dennis Erickson’s Miami (FFL) team moved into No. 1 in the final poll by beating Alabama, 33-25, in the Sugar Bowl. Colorado lost its chance by losing to Notre Dame, 21-6, in the Orange Bowl.

1990 — This was another split between the polls with AP going with Colorado (11-1-1) while UPI went with undefeated Georgia Tech (10-0-1). In the ensuing bowl games, both teams won — Colorado beating Notre Dame, 10-9, in the Orange, and Georgia Tech downing Nebraska, 45-21, in the Florida Citrus. This was the season that critics of the bowl system began talking about creating another way to determine a national champion, indicating that the polls were not adequate.

1991 — UPI, which fell on hard times financially, saw its coaches’ poll switch affiliation to USA Today/CNN. With two teams each posting 12-0 records, the polls again split with AP naming Miami (FL) No. 1 and the coaches’ poll going with Washington. Again, the media and public grumbled about not having a clear-cut national champion, and the Bowl Coalition started to think about replacing the poll champions.

1992 — The Bowl Coalition made its debut to decide a national champion, and Alabama, under Gene Stallings, upset Miami (FL), 34-13, in the Sugar Bowl for the title. The Crimson Tide finished 13-0 to take No. 1 in both polls. Miami (FL) was No. 1 in the AP poll for 10 of the season’s 15 weeks.

1993 — Florida State almost led the poll from first week to last, save for Nov. 16 after a loss to Notre Dame, which took one quick week in the No. 1 roost. But Lou Holtz’s Irish were upended by Boston College, and Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles regained the No. 1 spot the next week. The Seminoles posted a 12-1 record, including an 18-16 victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Florida State QB Charlie Ward was the Heisman Trophy winner, and LB Derrick Brooks and DB Corey Sawyer were consensus All-America selections.

1994 — Florida and Nebraska held the No. 1 spot for most of the first half of the season and Penn State went undefeated, but it was Nebraska (also unbeaten at 13-0) that took the championship. The Cornhuskers squeezed by Miami (FL), 24-17, in the Orange Bowl to hand Tom Osborne his first AP title after 22 years as the head coach in Lincoln. Joe Paterno saw his Penn State squad go undefeated and uncrowned for the fourth time.

1995 — Florida State was the team to beat as the Seminoles held the No. 1 slot for the first nine weeks, before giving way to defending champion Nebraska. The Cornhuskers ran their winning streak to 25 straight games with a 12-0 record. The Bowl Coalition matched No. 1 Nebraska with No. 2 Florida in the Fiesta Bowl. Nebraska whipped the Gators, 62-24, to remove any doubt about the No. 1 team, and the Cornhuskers took the AP prize for the second straight year.

1996 — This year marked a change from the Bowl Coalition to the Bowl Alliance, but it also proved less than satisfying as the top two teams — Florida State and Arizona State — did not meet because Arizona State was bound to the Rose Bowl and a game versus the Big Ten champion. Interestingly, both Florida State and Arizona State lost in their respective bowl games (Florida State lost to Florida, 52-20), which was enough to lift the Gators into the final No. 1 spot in both polls. Steve Spurrier got a measure of revenge over the Gator doubters from 1995, when Florida lost in the title game. Florida QB Danny Wuerffel was the Heisman winner, and Ike Hilliard and Reidel Anthony were consensus All-Americans.

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1997 — ESPN replaced CNN in the USA Today coaches’ poll that named Nebraska as its champion. Michigan finished No. 1 in the AP poll. The Wolverines and Nebraska were both unbeaten heading into the bowls, and the Cornhuskers finished 13-0 with a 42-17 win over Tennessee in the Orange Bowl. Meanwhile, Michigan (12-0) beat Washington State, 21-16, in the Rose Bowl. Even though both teams won in the bowls, 21 coaches changed their votes in the USA Today/ESPN poll on the strength of Nebraska’s margin of victory and handed Tom Osborne the third poll championship for Nebraska in four years. Lloyd Carr got his first AP title in only his third year as head coach of the Wolverines. Michigan DB Charles Woodson was the first defensive player ever selected as the Heisman Trophy winner.

1998 — This was the first year of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), and Ohio State, under John Cooper, was voted No. 1 in the AP poll for the first nine weeks. Phillip Fulmer’s Tennessee Volunteers took over the top spot when the Buckeyes lost, and raced to a 13-0 record, including a 23-16 victory over No. 2 Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl. Tennessee was voted No. 1 in all four major polls — Associated Press (AP), USA Today/ESPN (USA/ESPN), National Football Foundation/College Football Hall of Fame (NFF) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).

1999 — For the first time since Nebraska did so in 1983, Florida State led the AP poll wire-to-wire. It was not easy for Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles, as they posted a perfect 12-0 record, but had close calls in beating Georgia Tech, 41-35; Clemson, 17-14; and in-state rival Florida, 30-23. But Florida State ripped No. 2 Virginia Tech, 46-29, in the BCS Sugar Bowl. Peter Warrick, Jason Whitaker, Sebastian Janikowski and Corey Simon were all consensus All-America selections as Florida State finished No. 1 in all four major polls (AP, USA/ESPN, NFF and FWAA).

2000 — Nebraska, 12-1 and No. 3 in the AP poll the previous year, looked strong and was voted No. 1 for nine consecutive weeks to begin the season. Oklahoma, unranked the previous year, took over the No. 1 on Oct. 30 and cruised into the BCS Orange Bowl to face No. 2 Florida State. The Seminoles had one loss but the second-best strength of schedule. Bob Stoops’ Sooners clamped down on Florida State’s offense to post a 13-2 victory. For Stoops, in only his second year as a head coach, it was the first Oklahoma AP poll title since 1985 under Barry Switzer. Oklahoma finished 13-0 behind QB Josh Heupel (Heisman runner-up to QB Chris Weinke of Florida State), LB Rocky Calmus and DB J.T. Thatcher, all consensus All-Americans.

2001 — Florida and Miami (FL) fought it out all year for a BCS crown and No. 1 spots in all four major polls. Miami finally came out on top by posting a perfect 12-0 mark and a decisive 37-14 victory over No. 2 Nebraska in the Rose Bowl, which finally became a part of the BCS process. Florida ended up fifth in the BCS rankings because of two regular-season defeats. Associated Press’ No. 2 Nebraska (11-2) overcame a 62-36 pounding by AP No. 14 Colorado in its final regular-season game to hold on to the No. 2 BCS ranking and the Rose Bowl date. Miami’s Larry Coker was only the second first-year head coach to win a national title (Bennie Oosterbaan of Michigan in 1948) as the Hurricanes were No. 1 in all four major polls and BCS champion.

2002 — Defending consensus champion Miami (FL) held the AP No. 1 spot almost the entire year (Oklahoma was No. 1 during the week of Nov. 4) and was No. 1 in the BCS rankings. The Hurricanes then faced undefeated Ohio State, No. 2 in both the BCS and AP poll, in the Fiesta Bowl. The Buckeyes, under second-year head coach Jim Tressel, held on for a double-overtime 31-24 victory, snapping the Hurricanes’ 34-game winning streak, sixth longest of all-time. The Buckeyes had many talented players, including consensus All-Americans Mike Nugent (PK), Matt Wilhelm (LB) and Mike Doss (DB). It was the sixth straight year that the AP poll champion posted an undefeated season.

2003 — Grumblings about the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) began after the season as the polls split yet again. AP selected Southern California (12-1) as No. 1 and USA Today/ESPN picked LSU (13-1) as champion. In a strange turn of events, Oklahoma was No. 1 in the AP poll for 14 consecutive weeks, and the Sooners looked unbeatable as they rolled to an 11-0 regular-season record. In the Big 12 Conference championship game, however, the Sooners were rocked, 35-7, by Kansas State. Oklahoma had built up such a lead in the BCS rankings, however, that it was still ranked No. 1 and faced BCS No. 2 LSU in the Sugar Bowl. Even though BCS No. 3 Southern California was ranked No. 1 in both the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls before the bowls, the Trojans were relegated to the Rose Bowl, in which they defeated Michigan, 28-14, to finish 12-1. LSU then edged Oklahoma, 21-14, in the Sugar Bowl in the BCS No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. The AP pollsters voted Southern California No. 1 and the USA Today/ESPN voters picked LSU No. 1 and split the nation again. Momentum began gathering toward a slightly tweaked BCS system that tentatively would add another BCS bowl to the mix in the future.

2004 — Southern California left little doubt in the BCS-decided matchup with No. 2 Oklahoma that the Trojans were top dogs by racing to a 55-19 victory in the Orange Bowl. The Trojans were No. 1 in the weekly polls wire-to-wire with Oklahoma No. 2, and both were 12-0 going into the bowl games. The only fans who had a problem with the BCS championship game were the Auburn supporters, who saw their Tigers post a perfect 13-0 record, yet not be included in the title matchup. Again, talk of a playoff system was heard, with Auburn not only having a perfect record playing in one of the toughest conferences (Southeastern), but also finishing No. 2 in the final poll ahead of Oklahoma. Mountain West Conference power Utah also had an argument to be included after posting a 12-0 mark.

2005 — For the first time in BCS history, the top two teams in the country faced each other in the national championship game, as Southern California and Texas met in the Rose Bowl. The game lived up to all its hype, as the Longhorns rallied from a 38-26 deficit with two touchdowns in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter, capped by Vince Young’s eight-yard scamper with 19 seconds left for the 41-38 victory.

2006 — Preseason No. 1 Ohio State played like a national champion from Week 1 to earn a spot in the BCS championship game against the Gators of Florida. The Buckeyes had already taken care of another No. 2 in Texas in September, and after the opening kickoff, a 93-yard return for a touchdown by Ted Ginn Jr., it looked like they would hold off another challenge. However, the Gators answered quickly and often as Florida grabbed a 34-14 lead at halftime, coasted to a 41-14 win and was voted the 2006 AP championship.

2007 — It was a year of upsets as four different schools, including one team three different times, held the No. 1 spot throughout the year, before LSU claimed the 2007 AP championship. Southern California was the preseason favorite and ran with the top spot the first four weeks before handing it off to the Tigers. It only took two weeks before LSU moved over for Ohio State. The Buckeyes hung on to the top spot for four weeks before giving it back to LSU. National Poll Rankings 145 The Tigers would fall two weeks later, and this time the Tigers of Missouri would jump to the No. 1 spot for the first time since 1960. It only lasted one week as Ohio State jumped back into the driver’s seat. For the second straight year, the Buckeyes would lose in the national championship game, and LSU for the third and final time that season, elevated itself to the top spot with a 38-24 win. 

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2008 — Six different teams held the top spot in the AP poll during the 2008 season. It marked the second-most teams to be No. 1 in the history of the poll and the most since 1981 when seven teams were in the top spot. Preseason No. 1 Georgia was the only team not in the top spot for multiple weeks as Southern California, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama and Florida each held the top spot at least two weeks. After Texas Tech’s dramatic 39-33 victory over Texas knocked the Longhorns out of the top spot in the first week of November, Alabama began a five-week reign in the top spot. Florida, however, claimed both a Southeastern Conference championship and the top spot in the AP poll with a 31-20 victory over the Crimson Tide in the SEC championship game. The Gators, playing in their second straight 1 vs. 2 matchup, then claimed the BCS and AP titles with a 24-14 victory over second-ranked Oklahoma in the BCS championship game, and undefeated Utah used its victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to secure the No. 2 spot in the final poll.

2009 — Only two teams held the top spot in the AP poll, both of which were members of the Southeastern Conference, and for the fourth straight year, an SEC team held the top spot in the final poll. The defending national champion, Florida, entered the year as the preseason No. 1 and held that spot for 13 of 14 weeks going into an SEC championship matchup against No. 2 Alabama. The Crimson Tide claimed the SEC title with a 32-13 victory over Florida to move into the AP poll’s top spot for the second time in 2009. The BCS championship game pitted No. 1 Alabama against No. 2 Texas and the Crimson Tide’s 37-21 win clinched the national title and the No. 1 spot in the final rankings. While five teams (Alabama, Texas, TCU, Cincinnati and Boise State) entered the bowl season undefeated, only Alabama (No. 1) and Boise State (No. 4) completed perfect seasons. Texas and Florida, which each lost only to Alabama, finished second and third, respectively, while Ohio State rounded out the top five.

Florida Athletics Tim Tebow 2009 Florida Tim Tebow in his final season at Florida in 2009.

2010 — Four teams spent at least one week in the top spot of the AP poll in 2010, including three different teams in a three-week stretch in October. The 2009 national champion Alabama was tabbed the preseason No. 1 and held that spot for six weeks until a Crimson Tide loss allowed Ohio State to take the top spot. A Buckeyes’ loss in their first week in the top spot allowed Oregon to claim its first AP No. 1 ranking in the poll’s history. The Ducks held the top spot for seven weeks until Auburn took over after the final week of the regular season. In the BCS championship, No. 1 Auburn outlasted No. 2 Oregon to give the Southeastern Conference the top spot in the final AP poll for the fifth straight year. TCU joined Auburn among the ranks of the undefeated and finished at No. 2. The Tigers and Horned Frogs were joined in the top five by No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Stanford and No. 5 Ohio State.

2011 — Oklahoma and LSU were the only teams picked for the top spot of the AP poll during the regular season in 2011. The undefeated Sooners held the spot until undefeated LSU overtook them in the fifth poll of the season. The Tigers remained on top as they entered the bowl season. In the final poll, Alabama was tabbed No. 1 after defeating LSU, 21-0, in the BCS championship game.

2012 — Four teams spent at least one week in the top spot of the AP poll in 2012, including three different teams in a three-week stretch in November. Southern California was tabbed the preseason No. 1 but dropped to No. 2 the next week after the Trojans beat Hawaii, 49-10, and No. 2 Alabama defeated Michigan, 41-14, to claim the top spot. The Crimson Tide stayed No. 1 for 10 straight weeks before falling to Texas A&M on Nov. 10. New No. 1 Oregon fell to Stanford the next week. Notre Dame took over the top spot and held it for three weeks heading into the bowl season. In the BCS National Championship, No. 2 Alabama dominated the No. 1 Irish, 42-14, to give the Southeastern Conference the top spot in the final AP poll for the seventh straight year.

2013 — Only two teams claimed the top spot of the AP weekly poll in 2013, with the first 14 of those 17 weeks going to two-time defending champion Alabama. The last three polls were taken by Florida State. Alabama was tabbed the preseason No. 1 and held that spot until the Crimson Tide lost at No. 4 Auburn, 34-28, on November 30. Florida State worked its way up from No. 11 in the preseason poll to No. 2 for three weeks before taking over the top spot in the December 1 poll. In the BCS championship, No. 1 Florida State defeated No. 2 Auburn, 34-31, to end the Southeastern Conference’s streak of seven straight years of topping the final AP poll.

2014 — Defending national champion Florida State was the preseason No. 1 team and remained there through the first month of the season. But Mississippi State, unranked in the preseason poll and through the first three polls of the regular season, won three straight games against top-10 opponents to leap the Seminoles and take over the top spot. The ranking marked the first time in the history of the AP poll that Mississippi State sat atop the poll. The Bulldogs held the top spot for five weeks before dropping a 25-20 decision to Alabama on the road. The Bulldogs’ loss allowed Florida State to reclaim the top spot for two weeks. Despite remaining undefeated through the regular season, the Seminoles were once again jumped in the polls as Alabama took the top spot. The Crimson Tide held the top spot going into the postseason and as part of the first College Football Playoff, Alabama was upset by Ohio State in a Sugar Bowl matchup that served as one of two national semifinal games. Ohio State went on to defeat Oregon in the CFP National Championship to claim the top spot in the final AP poll for the first time since 2002.

WALK-ONS: 14 of the best walk-ons in college football history

2015 — Defending national champion Ohio State was ranked at the top of the 2015 preseason poll and stayed No. 1 for the first two months of the season. Clemson, which started the year 12th in the preseason poll, first climbed into the top 10 in Week 6 after knocking off previously unbeaten and sixth-ranked Notre Dame. The Tigers climbed to third in week eight and then jumped an idle Ohio State in week 10 to take over No. 1. Clemson held the ranking through the remainder of the season and went into the bowl season as the top-ranked team in the polls. Second-ranked Alabama, No. 3 Michigan State and fourth-ranked Oklahoma also joined Clemson in the four-team College Football Playoff. After Clemson beat Oklahoma and Alabama shut out Michigan State in the semifinals, the Crimson Tide and Tigers met in the first AP 1-2 matchup since the end of the 2013 season. Alabama held off Clemson, 45-40, in the CFP National Championship game to claim the No. 1 ranking in the final poll. Clemson, Stanford, Ohio State and Oklahoma made up the other top-five teams in the final AP ranking. 

2016 — Defending national champion Alabama held the top spot in the 2016 preseason rankings and held it through the entire regular season. The College Football Playoff National Championship game featured a rematch of the previous year’s game. But this time, Clemson — ranked third in the AP poll at the end of the regular season — upset the Crimson Tide to claim the title and the top spot in the final AP poll.

Kevin Jairaj | USA TODAY Sports Deshaun Watson of Clemson football Clemson Tigers quarterback DeShaun Watson reacts after throwing the winning touchdown pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

2017 — For the second straight season, Alabama was selected with the top spot in the 2017 preseason poll. This time, however, the Crimson Tide held that spot until its final regular-season game. In the Iron Bowl, sixth-ranked Auburn upset top-ranked Alabama to earn a trip to the SEC Championship game and move Clemson into the top spot. Clemson also earned the No. 1 ranking for the College Football Playoff and was matched up with fourth-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The Crimson Tide’s defense led the way to a 24-6 victory and put Alabama in the CFP Championship Game for the third season in a row. In the title game, second-ranked Georgia (which advanced to the championship game with a double OT win over third-ranked Oklahoma) took a 13-0 halftime lead and a 20-7 third quarter lead over the Crimson Tide. But Alabama scored 13 unanswered points in the game's last 21 minutes to force overtime. In OT, Georgia took a lead back with a field goal but Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa found DeVonta Smith for a 41-yard touchdown pass to give the Crimson Tide its second national title in three years.

CFP: Teams with the most College Football Playoff wins and appearances

2018 — Alabama was again selected preseason number one and held that spot for the entire season until the final poll. Clemson moved around in the top five most of the year while staying undefeated. The two teams met in the College Football Playoff for the fourth straight year and the title game for the third time in four years. This time, No. 2 Clemson dominated from the opening kick to win 44-16. Clemson became the first team in the history of modern football to win 15 games in a season and finished the year in the top spot of the final poll.

2019 — The No. 1 spot switched hands a few times during the season (Clemson, Alabama, LSU) but the team holding the spot never lost. Although ranking No. 1 for four weeks, Alabama failed to make the CFP for the first time since its inception. LSU, led by Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, moved into the top spot in late October and never looked back. One of the most prolific offenses ever cruised to a perfect 15-0 record, beating Oklahoma, 63-28, and Clemson, 42-25, for the championship.

Derick E. Hingle | USA TODAY Sports LSU's Joe Burrow in 2019 national championship Joe Burrow led the LSU Tigers to an undefeated 2019 season, throwing 463 yards with six total touchdowns in the national championship over Clemson. He was named the game's offensive MVP.

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